What's So "Asian" About Asian Art?

ASNC organized a two-part symposium on May 12, 2015 entitled Art without Borders: Contemporary Asian Art and the Bay Area to complement its Twelfth Annual Dinner. Joined by our Asia Society New York colleagues, Peggy Loar, the Interim Vice President, Global Arts & Culture, and Director, Asia Society Museum; and Michelle Yun, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Asia Society Museum, the symposium explored the global ambitions of Asian contemporary artists; the international reach and scope of contemporary Asian art; and Asia’s still ongoing search for recognition and place as an art hub in the art world.

Noting how even “Asia” with its enormous historical diversity and cultural variety is an artificial concept, Jay Xu, the Director of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and Neal Benezra, the Director of SFMOMA, critically examined notions like “Asian art” or “Middle Eastern art” under transnational conditions such as ours. They also explored the potential for major institutions like the Asian Art Museum, SFMOMA and Asia Society to act as “taste maker” when the market has become the de facto arbitrator of taste.

Speakers also noted the differing sensibilities around modernism in the East versus the West. In the West, modernism denotes a definitive break with the past. In the East, modernism still assumes some continuity with the past even if tradition is reshaped in the re-imagining of it. Apropos of this theme, the second panel, comprised of Britta Erickson, Artistic Director of Ink Studio in Beijing; Cheryl Haines, the curator of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz and the founding Executive Director of FOR-SITE Foundation; and Li Huayi, a Chinese-American artist internationally renowned for his integration of Chinese ink landscape painting with Western abstract art, explored Bay Area’s historical engagement with Asian art, its current state of affairs and future possibilities.

Watch video of the full symposium below:

Panel One:

Panel Two: